After about 20 minutes of meditation, some practitioners begin to experience Parikamma Nimitta, which are the initial signs of concentration during meditation. These signs often appear like a hazy spider web or a vague smoke-like formation in front of the eyes, which is difficult to detect. Sometimes they may appear as a white light or other similar manifestations.
At Lotusbuddhas.com, where we explore the fascinating world of meditation and mindfulness. One of the most intriguing aspects of meditation is the concept of nimitta, a Pali word that refers to a mental image or sign that arises during meditation.
Nimitta is often described as a bright, luminous object that appears in the mind’s eye, and many practitioners believe it to be a powerful tool for deepening their practice. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at nimitta and explore its meaning, significance, and practical applications.
What is Nimitta?
Nimitta is a Pali word that refers to a mental image or a sign that arises during meditation. It is often used in Buddhist meditation traditions to describe the visual or sensory experiences that meditators may encounter during their practice. Nimitta can be perceived through any of the senses and can be either external or internal. In meditation, nimitta can serve as a focal point or object of concentration, helping the meditator to develop their focus and awareness.
When the breath disappears and delight floods the mind, Nimitta always arises.
In this discussion, Nimitta refers to beautiful lights that appear in the mind. Therefore, I want to say that Nimittas are not objects that can be seen, meaning that they are not seen through vision. At this stage of meditation, vision is not functioning. Nimittas are simply objects of the mind, perceived by the mind. However, they are often perceived as lights.
What is happening here is that perception is trying to interpret a phenomenon that purely belongs to the mind. Perception operates primarily based on comparison, expressing the experience within the same realm as similar past experiences. However, for purely mental phenomena, which perception rarely recognizes, it is difficult for perception to find anything to compare with these very new experiences.
This explains why Nimitta appears very strange, unlike anything we have experienced before. However, the types of phenomena in our previous experiences that are considered most similar to Nimitta are visual lights, such as the light of car headlights in the dark, or the beam of a flashlight in the darkness, or the full moon in the night sky. Therefore, our perception uses these closest experiences, although not entirely similar, to compare and express Nimitta as types of light.
It’s fascinating to discover that all individuals who have experienced these types of Nimittas have had identical experiences! All meditators describe the same experience in different ways.
Some see a white light, while others see it as yellow or dark blue. Some perceive it as a circle, while others see it as a rectangle with sharp edges, and some perceive it as having a fuzzy edge.
In fact, there are no limits to the descriptions of the Nimitta images that meditators have reported. The most important thing to understand is that color, shape, and everything else are not important. This is because each of our perceptions has colored and shaped the Nimitta image for us to be able to visualize it.
What should you do when Nimitta appears too early?
Sometimes, the mind can sense a “light” in the very early stage of meditation. Except for those who have achieved Jhana, everyone else experiences the “intrusive” light which is highly unstable. If we focus on them, we won’t make any progress. This is not the time for Nimitta. We have to consider them as a distraction and return to the primary meditation practice of the early stage.
1. The first principle: try to forget about Nimitta
We are always confused when the Nimitta appears when the breath becomes “beautiful”, meaning when the breath has become calm and is about to disappear. Once again, Nimitta appears as an intruder, affecting our main task of keeping our attention on the “beautiful” breath.
If we abandon the breath to turn to Nimitta, it will not exist for long. Our mind is not pure enough to maintain an unstable Nimitta. We must focus more on the breath. Therefore, the most important thing to do is to forget Nimitta and always focus on training the “beautiful” breath.
If we regularly follow this advice, Nimitta will return stronger and brighter.
Then we ignore it again. When it comes back the third time, stronger and brighter, we still cling to the breath. We practice like this until a truly large, strong, and bright Nimitta appears. This is when we use this type of Nimitta. In fact, at this point, we cannot ignore it. This type of Nimitta always leads to Jhana.
The above method is similar to the case of a guest knocking on your door. It could be an unimportant salesperson, so you ignore it and continue your work. Usually, the story ends there.
But occasionally, the knocking continues, louder and longer. You ignore it a second time and continue your work. The knocking becomes louder and stronger. This indicates that it must be a close friend, so you go out, open the door, invite them in, and both enjoy a happy reunion.
2. Integrate Nimitta into the breath
Another way to deal with the early stages of Nimitta is to incorporate it into the breath when we have a beautiful breath. We must try to imagine the situation like a pearl lying among lotus petals. The shining Nimitta pearl lies in the beautiful breath among the lotus petals. If our mind cannot maintain the Nimitta, at least we can still hold onto the breath there.
Sometimes, our mind is not well-prepared, so when we approach Nimitta with our breath, Nimitta disappears, leaving only a beautiful breath. But this clumsiness does not affect the continuation of meditation.
Sometimes, when the mind has completed the Nimitta state, Nimitta becomes strong, expanding, pushing the breath out of our consciousness, leaving only Nimitta.
This method must be careful because it is not easy to move the mind from one object to another. Such transitions are clumsy and disrupt the meditation process. Instead, we must passively observe the transition from the beautiful breath to Nimitta, or vice versa. Let the progression or regression occur naturally, not according to our personal desire.
3. Advice for experienced meditation practitioners
The following advice is only for those who have attained deep meditation, meaning those who have experienced the full state of Jhana, with the purpose of helping to perfect it. When someone has enough skill in entering into meditation and has recently experienced the state of absorption, their mind is very peaceful and strong, even before meditation.
During meditation, they may be able to bypass many stages. Typically, this person is capable of making the Nimitta appear right at the beginning of the meditation. Their mind is so familiar with Nimitta and well-prepared to focus on it, in fact, it immediately jumps into Nimitta and the Nimitta becomes stable very quickly once attained. For those who have successfully entered into deep meditation, the faster the appearance of Nimitta, the better.
What should you do when Nimitta doesn’t appear?
For some people, when the breath disappears, Nimitta does not appear. There is no light appearing in the mind. Instead, they only have a sense of peace, emptiness, and nothingness. This is a very beneficial state that cannot be underestimated, but it is not Jhana. Moreover, this case does not have the power to go further. It is a dead end and a pure state but cannot be developed further. There are some methods to overcome this state, to create Nimitta and go deeper into Jhana.
1. Cultivate rapture (Piti) and happiness (Sukha)
The reason why we may not see the Nimitta is because we haven’t fully collected the Rapture (Piti) and Happiness (Sukha) in conjunction with the breath. Without enough delight when the breath disappears, there is no beautiful object for mindfulness to rely on.
To understand this, we need to emphasize the value of developing a sense of joy while observing the breath and collecting the happiness as a powerful feeling of beauty. For example, we can view the breath as a message that brings us oxygen, like the gift of life from the plants.
Breath connects our vitality with the whole world of plants, interacting with the rhythm of the atmosphere. We can use any clever means to focus on the beauty of the breath, and the beauty will bloom. Then, whatever we put our attention on will always appear.
In the previous chapter, you were reminded not to be afraid of the pleasure in meditation. I stress this point as it is important and worth repeating word for word.
Do not fear the feeling of pleasure (delight) in Meditation. Many meditators push away happiness, thinking that it is not important or even bad, or thinking that they do not deserve such happiness.
Feeling joyful in meditation is very important! Moreover, you deserve to be blissful. Bliss on the object of meditation is an essential part of the process of entering meditation. So when delight arises alongside the breath, we must praise it as a valuable asset and properly preserve it.
2. Concentrate energy on “Knowing”
Another reason for the absence of Nimitta is that we haven’t directed enough energy into “Knowing”. As explained in the previous chapter titled “What if there’s no Delight?”, delight is generated by directing a lot of energy into “Knowing”.
Most of our mental energy is lost during activity, such as planning, reminiscing, controlling, and thinking. If we can gather all the energy from mental activities and focus it on understanding and attentiveness, we will see our minds glowing and filled with energy and delight.
When there is a lot of delight, when it is strong, and when the breath disappears, Nimitta appears. Therefore, the reason why Nimitta may not appear is that we have wasted too much energy controlling our minds and have not provided enough energy for “Knowing”.
3. Be careful of discontentment
If the breath has disappeared but Nimitta has not yet appeared, we must be careful not to fall into a state of discontentment. Dissatisfaction will wither away all the joy and happiness present here, and will push the mind into a state of unrest.
Discontentment will make it even harder for Nimitta to appear. Therefore, we must patiently seek a remedy by recognizing contentment to integrate it. Only by paying attention to the feeling of contentment can it be deepened. When the feeling of satisfaction and contentment grows stronger, the feeling of joy arises. When the power of joy becomes stronger, Nimitta appears.
4. Focus sharply on the present moment
Another useful method to revive Nimitta when the breath has disappeared is to focus sharply on the present moment! Recognizing the present moment is the first stage of this meditation method. However, in practice, as meditation progresses and we concentrate on other objects, awareness of the present moment may become somewhat distracted.
Our mindfulness may become “blurry” around the present moment instead of focusing precisely on it. By recognizing the issue here, we can easily adjust the sharp focus of mindfulness to the center of the present moment, like adjusting a camera to make a blurry picture clear. When the sharp concentration converges on the present moment, it will become stronger. Hỉ-Lạc goes along with the power of concentration, and soon after that, Nimitta appears.
The types of Nimitta in meditation
Harvesting Nimitta in the form of Light brings many benefits. Nimitta in the form of light is a means of transport for meditators to enter into concentration. However, there is also, albeit rare, the ability to enter concentration through “Feeling Nimitta”.
This means that a person does not see light in their mind, but instead experiences a sense of bliss in their mind. The important observation here is that the sense of bliss has surpassed the level of sensation and is completely felt in the mind.
It is an object that belongs entirely to the mind but is perceived very similarly to a bodily bliss. This is called “Bone-fida” Nimitta. However, it is really difficult for meditators to enter concentration with such a Nimitta to reach the state of concentration, and almost impossible. For this reason, one should try to find Nimitta in the form of light if they want to enter concentration.
There are some types of Nimittas that can be seen but are not useful in the process of entering concentration. We need to understand these types of Nimitta so that we do not waste our time with them.
1. Visual imagery
Sometimes the entire scene appears clearly in the mind’s eye. It could be landscapes, buildings, and people. They can be either familiar or unfamiliar. Usually, we enjoy these mental images, but they have little value.
Moreover, they are meaningless, and we can’t gain any insight into the truth from them! Experience shows that the mental images that appear at this stage are always deceptive and entirely worthless. If you want to waste your time, you can indulge in them for a while.
But the advice is to abandon this kind of indulgence and return to the beautiful Breath. Complex Nimittas such as mental images are only a reflection of an excessively cluttered consciousness.
The mind must be stabilized into a simple and straightforward state before you leave the focus on the breath. When we maintain a concentration on the beautiful breath for a long time without interruption, that is when we are training the simplicity of the mind. When the breath gradually becomes light and disappears, a simple Nimitta arises, and this Nimitta is suitable for the progress of meditation.
2. Fireworks Nimitta
This type of Nimitta is simpler but still quite complex, and can be called the “firework Nimitta”. As the name suggests, it consists of multiple clusters of light that appear and disappear quickly, with many movements.
There may be many bursts of light at the same time, and there may be many colors. The “firework Nimitta” is a sign of a complex and unstable mind. If you wish, you can enjoy the display for a while, but don’t spend too much time here. We should forget the dazzling scene of the “firework Nimitta” and return to the breath, develop peace and concentration.
3. Shy Nimitta
This type of Nimitta is called the “shy Nimitta”. It is only a pure beam of light that flickers quickly and then disappears, lasting only a second or two. This type of Nimitta is very encouraging as it indicates that our mind has collected into a single point, and its power is a sign of strong concentration.
However, it is not able to be sustained once it has appeared in our mind. This indicates that our level of stillness is not yet sufficient. In such a situation, we do not need to return to our breath. Instead, we must patiently wait and develop a deeper state of calm in order for our mind to become more receptive to this type of shy Nimitta.
It will be explained more later, but this type of Nimitta disappears because our mind reacts too much each time it appears, either from excitement or fear. By creating a calm and confident state of mind, we can prevent any reaction and allow the shy Nimitta to return and last longer.
Before long, this type of Nimitta will lose its shyness, be accepted to exist in the stillness of our mind, and last longer. We must follow this plan, but if the shy Nimitta continues to flicker without any indication that it will last longer, then we should let it go and return to our beautiful breath. When we have achieved a quieter mind with a beautiful breath, we can return to the shy Nimitta and see if it appears again.
4. Light spot Nimitta
Another type of Nimitta is called the “light spot” Nimitta. It is a simple, strong, but very small spot of light that exists for many seconds. This Nimitta can be very useful. It signals that one has achieved one-pointedness, complete stillness, but still lacks happiness.
All that needs to be done is to gently gaze at this light spot Nimitta. As our perception approaches this Nimitta, its size increases. If it only slightly expands, we should focus on the center of the light spot Nimitta, not the edge or the outside.
By keeping our mind focused on the center of the light spot Nimitta, its power will increase and happiness will develop. Soon after, this type of Nimitta will open up into a better Nimitta than all the others.
5. White light Nimitta
The best type of Nimitta of all, which means the most useful Nimitta for entering concentration, starts with a state similar to a full moon on a cloudless sky. It slowly emerges as the breath becomes fainter and disappears. It takes about three or four seconds to form and stabilize.
It is serene and very beautiful to the mind’s eye. When it appears without any effort, it becomes brighter and brighter. Soon it shines brighter than the midday sun, radiating peace. Furthermore, it becomes the most beautiful object we have ever seen. Its beauty and power often exceed our capacity to endure.
We may wonder how we can experience so much peace from such an overpowering force. But we truly can feel it. We can feel peace at any limit. The Nimitta explodes and immerses us in even more peace or a state similar to diving deep into the center of a radiating pleasure zone. If we stay centered here, that is Jhana concentration.
How to make Nimitta brighter
Deep intuition tells us that the Nimitta is truly an image of the Mind. Just as we see our face when looking in a mirror, we see an image of our Mind in the stillness of meditation. The Nimitta is a reflection of the Mind.
1. The importance of virtue
When the Nimitta appears faint or even dirty, it means that our mind is dull and impure. This phenomenon always occurs when we have just lost our virtues, for example, when we have been angry or possessive. At this stage of meditation, we are looking directly at our mind, so there is no way to deceive ourselves. We always see the mind as it really is.
If a faint and incomplete Nimitta appears, we must purify our actions in daily life. We must observe the precepts of morality, speak only of good things, and devote ourselves selflessly. At this stage of meditation, when the Nimitta appears, Virtue is a necessary factor for successful meditation.
Through many years of teaching meditation, I have found that the earliest and most impressive progress is made by those who are cheerful, kind, harmless by nature, gentle in speech, polite, and happy.
Such a beautiful way of life helps them to have a beautiful mind, and a beautiful mind reinforces a virtuous way of life. When people like this reach this stage of meditation, their mind will have the image of a Nimitta.
It is very bright and pure and leads them into concentration very easily. This shows that it is impossible for a person who lives a reckless and selfish life to easily succeed in meditation. On the contrary, it is necessary to maintain virtues and develop a pure mind to prepare for meditation.
The best way to make a faint and dirty Nimitta bright is to purify our actions in daily life.
2. Focus on the center of beauty
As mentioned earlier, if our moral conduct is not too unwholesome, we can create a Nimitta while meditating. This is done by focusing our attention on the center of the Nimitta. The other parts of the Nimitta may be unclear, but the center of the Nimitta is always the brightest and purest.
Even in a rigid and inactive Nimitta, there is still a “soft” center. By focusing on the center, it will expand and form a second, purer and brighter Nimitta. If we focus on the center of this second Nimitta, it will turn into a third even purer and brighter Nimitta. By staring at the center, we make the Nimitta brighter. We can continue this process until the Nimitta becomes radiant and beautiful.
In life, if we have a “fault-finding” mentality, always obsessed with finding faults and errors, we will find it difficult to concentrate and see the beauty at the center of a dim Nimitta. This is because we are accustomed to the reflex of only seeing imperfections. This reflex is contrary to the need to overlook the imperfections of the Nimitta and instead focus on its bright and beautiful center.
This again shows that an improper attitude in life can impede our progress towards enlightenment. If we learn to forgive life and accept both good and bad aspects, not being too passive or too aggressive, maintaining a balanced attitude of acceptance, we will not only see the beauty of our mistakes but also the beauty in the center of a dim Nimitta.
A bright Nimitta is essential to deepen our concentration. A dim and unclear Nimitta is like an old car that is prone to breaking down on the journey.
If we are not able to make the Nimitta bright, we should return to practicing beautiful breath meditation, accumulating more energy for what is called “beauty”, creating more joy with each breath. Wait again, and when the breath disappears, the Nimitta will reappear. This time, it may not be as dim but more beautiful and brighter. We have made the Nimitta brighter during the beautiful breath meditation stage.
How to stabilize the Nimitta
Once Nimitta is truly bright, it is incredibly beautiful. It carries an ethereal quality in the depths of its beauty and is clearly more beautiful than anything we have ever experienced. Regardless of the color, Nimitta shines a thousand times brighter than the colors we see with the naked eye.
This stunning beauty captures our attention and helps Nimitta to exist. The more beautiful it is, the more stable and enduring Nimitta becomes. One of the best ways to stabilize Nimitta and make it last longer is to make it as bright as described above.
However, there are cases where Nimitta does not last long. They explode in our minds with a sense of joy. They exist fleetingly like a shooting star in the night sky. These Nimittas have power but lack durability.
To maintain this type of Nimitta, it is important to know that there are two enemies that can make it disappear: Fear and Excitement.
1. Do not be afraid
Fear is the most common enemy of nimitta. These nimittas possess a strange power and beauty that can be frightening. Fear is a natural reflex when we recognize something that is more powerful than ourselves, and the strange experience can make us feel that our safety is threatened.
It seems that at that moment we lose all control. In fact, at that time, we should let go of the “self” in peace, if possible, and at the same time place trust in the nimitta. Anyone who desires to be fully controlled by the superlative peace will have everything belonging to their self disappear, leaving only a sense of absolute freedom. The fear of losing a part of oneself is the reason to be cautious when a nimitta appears too strongly.
For those who have some understanding of the Buddha’s Anatta doctrine, which states that there is no true Self, they can quickly overcome fear and accept Nimitta. They realize that they have nothing to protect, so they let go of control and trust in emptiness, enjoying the beauty and power in a state of non-self.
Thanks to this, Nimitta is stable. Even a knowledgeable person sees that there is no one here to help them control the deep-seated fear of losing self-control. However, for those who do not yet fully understand the truth of non-self, they can temporarily control their fear by replacing it with a sense of peace, just like a child learning to swim in a pool.
When a child, who has just learned to stand confidently on solid ground, sees a pool for the first time, they are almost always afraid. The unfamiliar environment threatens their safety, and they are very worried about how their small body can handle a non-solid substance like water.
They are afraid of losing their autonomy. They dip one toe into the water and quickly pull it out. Okay. They continue to dip three toes into the water for a little longer. Still okay. Then they dip their entire foot and eventually their whole leg into the water. As their confidence grows and the pool promises more fun, the desire for fun overpowers their fear. The child jumps into the water and throws their entire body into it. It’s a time of fun that no parent can force them to leave.
Similarly, when fear arises with a strong Nimitta, the key is to stay present in that moment. It’s like dipping one toe in the water and then quickly pulling it out. We need to contemplate the state we’re in and acknowledge that it may not be perfect. By doing so, we can build the courage to withstand the experience for longer periods of time.
It’s like dipping three toes in the water, and then the entire foot, until eventually we can stand in the water and feel more comfortable. Using this method, we become more confident and eagerly anticipate the joy that comes with a strong and beautiful Nimitta. We immerse ourselves fully in it and enjoy the experience, which others may find difficult to pull us out of.
Another clever technique to overcome fear during this stage, especially when it becomes too intense, is to perform some mental rituals to instill confidence. For example, if we have been the driver of the meditation vehicle up until this point, it’s time to relinquish control completely to the Nimitta.
We can imagine ourselves handing over the keys to the strong Nimitta, just as we would hand over the wheel to a trusted friend. By mentally handing over the keys, we are surrendering our control and placing our full trust in the Nimitta. This transfer of trust from ourselves to the Nimitta always leads to the solid maintenance and stability of the Nimitta.
In fact, it is about taking our own belief and placing that trust in understanding. This is the hidden truth behind the path of meditation. Right from the start, we must train ourselves in passive perception, which means the ability to perceive without interfering with the object of our perception. Energy, along with faith, enters into mindfulness, freeing us from action.
Once we learn how to gently observe an ordinary object such as breath, without any interference, we can learn to passively perceive more attractive objects, such as a beautiful breath. If we overcome this challenge, then Nimitta, the most difficult object of challenge, will be seen as the highest test of passive perception ability.
Every time we face Nimitta, even with a little restraint, we will fall back to the final exam and have to practice again with beautiful breath to make repairs. The more we meditate, the more we learn to maintain strong mindfulness in letting go. When this skill is perfected, we will easily pass the final exam on how to maintain stability.
2. Don’t try to hold on to Nimitta
An example of a mirror that can be used here. When we look at our reflected face and see the image moving back and forth, it’s useless to try to hold the image stable by gripping the mirror tightly! If you try to hold it, the image will move even more. The image in the mirror moves because the person holding the mirror is moving. The mirror itself is stationary, so there’s no need to hold it tightly. The mistake is on the part of the knower.
In meditation, the nimitta is a reflection of the mind, an image that’s being perceived. When this reflected image, or nimitta, moves back and forth, it’s equally useless to try to stabilize it by holding on to it tightly!
If you try to do this, the nimitta will move even more. The nimitta moves because the person observing the nimitta is moving. To understand this, we should stop intending, holding tightly, and instead focus on the knowing, keeping the knowing still. Because when the knowing isn’t moving, the nimitta isn’t moving either. It’s like the reflected image of our face in the mirror – if the person holding the mirror is still, the reflected image is still too.
3. Don’t get excited
I have just mentioned above that the second enemy in maintaining nimitta is excitement or enthusiasm, which I often refer to as the “Wow-respond” reaction. Everyone knows that when meditating successfully, something magical appears, and the meditator becomes very excited.
This is especially true if a spectacular Nimitta appears for the first time, shining brighter than the sun, more beautiful than any incredibly beautiful flowers! At that moment, the mind usually exclaims “Wow!” Unfortunately, after the “Wow” moment, Nimitta fades away and sometimes it takes a long time for it to return, even up to several months.
To avoid such a catastrophe, we must keep in mind the famous example of Ajahn Chah’s “Still Water Face” story.
In the evening, the monks and meditators walk alone in the forest hoping to find a river or a lake. They need water to drink, bathe or wash their clothes. After drinking and washing, they will have to set up their mosquito net far from the lake to meditate through the night. Ajahn Chah said that sometimes he sat in his mosquito net with his eyes wide open, observing the forest creatures come to the lake at dusk to drink and bathe.
But the animals only came to drink when he remained absolutely still. If he moved, they would sense his presence and run back into the forest, not returning for many days. Ajahn Chah knew how to sit very still so that the animals did not know he was there. He could watch them drink and play, and he enjoyed watching the antics of the young forest creatures.
Sometimes Ajahn Chah sat perfectly still. Then, when the forest creatures no longer gathered by the lake, some very beautiful and rare creatures appeared in the dark. These creatures were beautiful and rare and no one had ever told Ajahn Chah about them. Or if they did, he probably wouldn’t understand.
He did not know their names. As soon as he stepped out of the forest, their ears scanned the entire area, their noses sniffing out any danger. If Ajahn Chah moved even a little or said “wow,” they would know he was there and disappear into the forest, not returning for months. They were the most shy creatures in the forest and also the rarest and most beautiful. They are difficult to describe.
In this particular example, the lake in the forest symbolizes the Mind, while the monks sitting near the lake symbolize Right Mindfulness. When Right Mindfulness is still and undisturbed, the animals representing Beautiful Breath and Joy will come out from the forest to play near the shore of the Mind.
Right Mindfulness must be kept calm without any interference or impact, otherwise Beautiful Breath and Joy will be frightened and retreat back into the forest, making it difficult to return. If the person who knows, namely Right Mindfulness, always keeps silent, then after Beautiful Breath and Joy stop operating within the mind, the Nimitta will shyly appear to play within the mind.
If Nimitta feels that Right Mindfulness is not calm, and it hears the person thinking “Wow,” then Nimitta will immediately run back into the forest, and it will not return for a very long time. Right Mindfulness will miss the opportunity if it is disturbed.
When the beautiful and strong Nimitta appears, we must remember this example and observe with the stillness of Ajahn Chah, sitting motionless far from the lake shore. We must restrain all excitement. Then we will see this strange and wonderful Nimitta rejoicing in our mind for a very long time, until it is ready to lead us into Concentration.
Things that destabilize Nimitta
When the Nimitta is stable and bright, we have arrived at the doorway to Jhana. We must restrain our impatience, maintain stillness, and avoid any disturbances until the causes and conditions are complete for the transition to occur. However, at this stage, some meditators make mistakes that disrupt the progress by “stealing” a glance at the edges of the Nimitta.
Once the Nimitta is stable and radiant, we can observe its interesting shape and size. Is it round or rectangular? Are its edges sharp or blurred? Is it small or large? However, when we focus on the edges of the Nimitta, our mindfulness loses its ability to “fix the mind.” The edges of the Nimitta represent the duality of the inner and outer.
The duality is always in opposition to the one-pointedness of the mind. If we focus on the edges, the Nimitta becomes unstable and may disappear. We must always keep mindfulness right in the center of the Nimitta, away from the edges, until all perception of the edges disappears into the state of one-pointedness.
Likewise, if we try to expand or contract the Nimitta, we also lose the essential quality of one-pointedness. Expanding or contracting relates to perception of size, perception of the edges of the Nimitta and the space around it. Once again, we fall into the trap of duality and lose one-pointedness just because of the pointless effort to make it larger or smaller.
Therefore, when the Nimitta is stable and radiant, we just need to be patient. Do not move it. We are building the necessary elements for bliss and one-pointedness. When the elements have enough energy, they will open up the state of Jhana.
The Nimitta has been explained as an image of the mind. When we experience a nimitta like this, we realize that it is like the luminosity of the mind described in the scriptures. This Nimitta radiates because the mind has escaped the five hindrances. Therefore, we must understand that this Nimitta-mind that radiates, free from the five hindrances, is the doorway to Jhana.
When the Nimitta is bright and stable, its energy gradually accumulates. It’s like adding peace, more and more, until it overflows. When peace has overflowed, bliss also overflows and the Nimitta appears shining.
If we can maintain a focused mind here by keeping our concentration on the very center of the Nimitta, the power will reach its necessary level. We will feel that the Knower is being drawn towards the Nimitta, and we are falling into the most dazzling realm of happiness. Then we see the Nimitta approaching and embracing the Knower, engulfing us in the ecstatic universe. We have entered the state of Jhana.
This is an excerpt of Nimitta from the article “SAMATHA THE JHANA” by Bhikkhu Brahmavamso.